Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains

From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, MT 4/23/04

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Recovery, Week of 4/10-4/23, 2004

Monitoring

NEW WEB ADDRESS- The 2003 annual wolf report is at http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . It has maps of wolf pack locations and home ranges, tables of wolf numbers and depredations, litigation and funding issues, and summaries of scientific studies.

Mike Ross MT FW&P conducted a monitoring flight for wolves in SW Montana on the 22nd. All packs have localized at their traditional dens except for Freezeout. That female looked as big as a barn and should pup very soon. Both Mission Mountain and Mocassin Lake packs were seen and that solved the question if those wolves were in two separate packs- Yes! Sheep Mtn. may have fragmented and the new segment might be forming near Jardine. Chief Joe was at their den in YNP. The Bear Creek pack [2 wolves] that was recently collared in the Madison Valley was headed toward the Taylor Fork area.

Seasonal biologist Paul Frame caught 3 wolves from the Hog Heaven pack on the 23rd. One [already radioed male #286] pulled out of the rubber-lined leg-hold trap just as Paul approached to immobilize him. The other two [both females, a 1-yr and 2-yr old] were radio-collared and released on site.

Yellowstone reported that most of the packs have denned at their usual den sites.

Idaho began den survey flights last week. They will be conducted every 10 days to identify denning packs. Wolf B2's mortality was confirmed on 4/15/04. He was found near a raghorn bull elk, but there was no evidence of broken bones, etc., so he may have been killed by elk (and died of internal injuries) or succumbed to old age. His skull was recovered for aging. B187's collar was retrieved; it slipped off soon after its capture during winter helicopter darting operations.

Control

WS confirmed that a single wolf killed a newborn calf on private land near Red Lodge, MT on the 14th. Several weeks prior to this incident a single wolf with a radio collar was observed in the area, probably a disperser. Aerial and ground monitor searches by WS for missing radio collared wolves was unsuccessful. Trapping to radio collar is ongoing.

A member of the Mocassin pack killed a calf on the 18th of April. Traps were set and on the 19th and a lone uncollared male was captured and killed. Control ended. The producer lost two confirmed calves last year and several others that were unconfirmed on his grazing allotment resulting in two wolves radio collared and released on site. On April 23rd, another lone wolf from the Mocassin pack area was seen within 15' of cows and calves that it had bunched up in a corner. The rancher was able to run the wolf off. A shoot-on-sight permit was issued to the landowner to remove the wolf actively hunting livestock.

Trapping is being conducted by ID WS for the Bennett Mountain pack after wolves were sighted near the areas of recently past depredations (where 2 wolves were lethally controlled and another was likely killed but not recovered).

A wolf-like canid was reported near Meeteetse, WY on the 23rd , and on the 24th WS investigated. Reportedly the animal was walking around a subdivision and past homes in the middle of the afternoon. It reportedly entered a barn and a woman yelled at it to run it off. It slowly walked past her at 20' ignoring her and her 2 small dogs and drank from a nearby water trough. The ‘wolf-like canid’ then slowly walked out of the area. This is almost certainly a recently released or escaped captive wolf or wolf hybrid. In any event it did not behave anything like a healthy normal wild wolf should and Wildlife Services was authorized to remove it as soon as possible. The experimental population rules allow for agencies to remove any wolves that may pose a threat to human safety. Such behavior raises the risk of human injury.

A ranch near the Snake River in Wyoming reported that their 2 dogs had been chased by wolves near their ranch house on a couple of occasions during the day. While the dogs were not injured, the people were concerned that their dogs would eventually would be killed if this continued. The dogs are kenneled at night. It is possible one of the packs in the area had denned nearby. The Service is attempting to fly the area to see if any radioed wolves or a den is nearby. The landowners were also given a less-than-lethal munitions permits.

A ranch manager in the Stanley Basin [within the SNRA] of Idaho reported dogs attacked by a single wolf earlier this month. In that instance 2 dogs were injured in two separate instances on the front porch and were only saved when the owner dragged them inside the house as they fought with the wolf. The wolf was only a few feet away at that point. During the last incident the manager fired a cracker shell over the departing wolf’s head and it ran off. ID DF&G and WS responded and were authorized to use less than lethal munitions or kill the wolf if it returned. It is likely a member of Galena pack. Since being scared away with the cracker shell it has not returned. A reminder that during this time of year wolves are likely at the peak of their aggressive behavior toward strange canids within ‘their’ home ranges. Dogs near denning wolves are likely to be attacked. Night kenneling dogs and keeping them close to people or the house will reduce the chances for such encounters.

A pair of wolves [a gray and a black] have been traveling thru the Red Lodge-Roscoe, MT area and occasionally killing a calf or ewe. In late March they killed 3 ewes and returned and killed another ewe. On April 9th WS confirmed they killed a calf, on the 18th they killed 2 calves, the 20th they attacked and injured a calf and 3 others are possible kills, and on the 23rd they killed 4 ewes. The last attack also resulted in 1/4 mile of fence being knocked down. The pair have shown no tendency to localize for denning. Five shoot on sight permits have been issued to affected landowners, the first was provided March 29th and the other four were given on April 19th . All depredations are on private property. WS is authorized to removed both wolves.

The last two known wolves of the Pinedale pack near Pinedale, Wyoming were killed because they continued to chronically prey on livestock in the area. Two wolves were removed from the area earlier this winter because of chronic calf depredations [4-5 were killed in several attacks this winter]. In early April the remaining pair killed a calf and they were removed during the first week of April. Wildlife Services removed female wolf #279 a former Teton wolf, and male #72 a former Nez Perce wolf by fixed-wing aerial gunning in early April.

WS captured and released a 2-year old male wolf in the Madison Valley on the 19th near a calving area. The producer reported missing three 50 pound calves but there is no confirmation that wolves killed them. This pair appeared in the valley after the Sentinel and Ennis (maybe Bear Trap) packs were lethally removed. No additional control is indicated at this time. The new pair will be called Bear Creek. There is no indication they will den this year.

On the 19th WS investigated a possible wolf kill north of Browning, Montana. The producer saw two wolves run from a calf that was partially consumed. There was not enough of the calf carcass to determine if the wolves killed it. Traps were set to try and radio collar one of the wolves. The wolves returned the next evening but were not caught. Additional traps were set but the wolves did not return that night and the traps were removed.

WS confirmed that wolves killed a colt near Nirada, MT near the Hog Heaven pack. The colt was killed the evening of the 17th but WS was not contacted until the 19th. Traps have been set to try and radio collar and release a wolf on site. Service biologist Frame is also trapping north of the area trying to radio collar a member of the pack (twso were radio collared and released, see above). Frame retrieved fladry from the Ninemile area and the Nirada ranchers are putting it up around a pasture where they will be releasing some foals and where the Hog Heaven pack members have been seen on several occasions recently.

Wolves [likely Chief Joe pack members] in Cinnibar Basin continue to harass cattle and a small bison herd. Initially only three wolves were seen but 11-12 were counted on the 11th by one of the producers. A monitoring flight on the 22nd found the pack denned in YNP. If they return to Cinnibar or Tom Miner Basin areas trapping to radio collar and release will be initiated. Fladry has been placed on one pasture and the producers have been trained and provided with less than lethal munitions.

Research

Yellowstone National Park is continuing their den site studies. They are looking at whelping time, pup production, time at the den, visiting wolves and other dynamics at three den site.

YNP is also working with Dr. Robert Wayne, UCLA, on aspects of wolf genetics. Dr. Wayne is an expert in canine genetics.

Information and education and law enforcement

Fontaine gave a presentation to 25 high school juniors and teachers from Helena and Capital High Schools at Spring Meadow Lake This is an elite group of students that must apply to be in this class. Presentations were sponsored by FWP and conducted throughout the day on management and wildlife issues.

Smith talked to about 40 students in Bozeman on the evening of the 14th at the MSU student chapter of The Wildlife Society. Smith also gave a presentation on April 22, Ventura, CA to employees at the Patagonia Headquarters and on the 23rd to employees at the Patagonia Mail Outlet in Reno, NV.

Jimenez gave a presentation at the annual elk mangers meetings in Jackson, WY on the 22nd. Twenty to twenty-five state and federal managers/biologists attended. On the 23rd, Jimenez gave a talk to about 20 students from a Colorado State Univ. biology class visiting Grand Teton National Park.

Wyoming filed criminal trespass and littering charges against Service Project Leader Mike Jimenez and an employee of the WY helicopter capture company on April 16, 2004. Jimenez is being represented by DOJ attorneys.

Curt Mack (Nez Perce Tribe), Carter Niemeyer and Craig Tabor (FWS), Mark Collinge (WS), and Steve Nadeau (IDGF) held a meeting on April 14 to review communications and coordination, as well as discuss summer work plans in Idaho. IDFG is hiring 2 wolf biologists that will be on the ground by mid-May, and the rest of IDFG staff are also taking on more wolf management roles statewide.

Steve Nadeau(IDGF) gave a presentation to 25 Kiwanis club members on April 19th in Boise.

Wyoming filed litigation [State of Wyoming Plaintiff and DOI. Gale Norton, and Steve Williams] in U.S. District Court, District of Wyoming on April 22, 2004. The suit basically alleges the Service should have moved forward with delisting.

10j Amendment-Public Comment Period

On April 3rd, Secretary of the Interior Norton announced a proposal to give Tribes and Idaho and Montana more authority to manage wolf populations in their reservations and states, consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The wolf populations now far exceed their recovery goals under the Act in the northern Rocky Mountains, and Idaho and Montana have crafted responsible wolf management plans for their states, Norton said. "Although we are unable at this time to continue with the process to delist the wolf population in the region because we do not have approved plans for all three states, we believe that it is appropriate for us to pursue as much local management for this recovered wolf population as we can." The proposed experimental population 10j amendment was published in the Federal Register.

A formal hearing on the 10j proposal was held in Helena 6-9PM on the 19th. About 35 people attended the hearing and 8 testified. Bangs was the official listener and public comments were recorded by a court reporter. Generally the comments from livestock, hunting, and conservation groups and the public were supportive of the proposal, but some suggestions & comments were made about how certain parts would be interpreted. NPT, IDFG, MT FW&P, ID OSC, ID DF&G, and FWS in ID & MT attended the 10j hearings.

On the 20th a hearing was held in Boise Idaho from 1-3PM and 6-8PM. About 40 people attended each session. Public comment was a little more polarized than in Helena but generally people thought the proposal had merit and was a step in the right direction. A few suggestions on the need for more clarification on some portions of the rule were made. Written public comment is being accepted until May 10 at Western Gray wolf recovery Coordinator, USFWS, 100 N. Park, #320, Helena, MT 59601 or by email at WesternGrayWolf@fws.gov.

 

Bangs, Fontaine, and Clint Riley [Special Assistant to the Service Director] attending two 7PM informational meetings hosted by Montana Senator Conrad Burns. The first meeting was held in Livingston, MT on the evening of the 15th and the second in Butte on the 16th. The meetings were held to provide information and answer questions about the Services new proposed experimental population regulations. Both meetings ended up with many questions about other aspects of the wolf recovery program, but several folks commented that the proposal was a step in the right direction. A few people in Livingston became emotional but all questions were answered and Service representatives stayed until there were no more questions from the group. About 75 people attended the Livingston meeting and 15 attended the Butte meeting. We thank everyone for taking time from their schedules to attend the meetings and Senator Burns for hosting them.

MEXICAN GRAY WOLF RECOVERY PROGRAM- is looking for 2 volunteers, starting approximately May 1, 2004 for a 6 month commitment. Application Period: 4/1/04 - 4/15/04

Living Stipend: $15/day, housing provided. Location: Alpine, AZ

Major Duties: The volunteer will perform a variety of tasks in support of the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf to the Apache and Gila National Forests in east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico. Duties may include monitoring of wolf locations, movements, and activities through radio-telemetry as well as back-country travel by backpacking, horseback riding, and mule packing. Camping for extended periods of time in remote areas to monitor wolves while in acclimation pens and post release may also be involved. Collection, processing, storing, and delivery of road-killed ungulates to the wolves while in acclimation pens and as supplementary food post release. May assist biologists with various wolf management and research activities such as capture and radio collaring of wolves, and monitoring of den and rendezvous site activity. Assists project biologists with distributing current wolf information to campers, hunters, and other persons using the recovery area. Volunteer will also assist project biologists with various office tasks such as data entry and equipment maintenance.

Qualifications: The applicant should be in excellent physical health. He/she must be able to work independently and with a team, often in remote areas under extreme environmental conditions. Applicants with or working towards a Bachelors degree in wildlife biology, experience with back-country map and compass use, remote back-country hiking and camping, radio telemetry, 4WD vehicles, and good communication skills are preferred.

E-mail, FAX, or mail a resume and cover letter with 3 references as soon as possible to:

Volunteer Position, Attn: Dan Stark
Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program
P.O. Box 856
Alpine, AZ 85920
FAX: 928-339-4218

dan_stark@fws.gov

The Service's weekly wolf report can now also be viewed at the Service's Region 6 web site at  http://westerngraywolf.fws.gov/ . This report is government public property and can be used for any purpose. Please distribute as you see fit.

Contact: Ed Bangs (406)449-5225 x204 or ED_BANGS@FWS.GOV